BOTSFORD, AMOS, lawyer, office holder, judge, politician, landowner and improver, and merchant; b. 31 Jan. 1744/45 in Newtown, Conn., son of Gideon Botsford, “a respectable farmer,” and Bertha Bennett; m. 1770 Sarah Chandler, and they had three children; d. 14 Sept. 1812 in Saint John, N.B.
After graduating from Yale College in 1763, Amos Botsford studied law under the prominent New Haven attorney Jared Ingersoll, was admitted to the bar, and, in 1768–69, lectured in law at Yale. At the outbreak of revolutionary hostilities he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the new state constitution and was excluded from his professional practice, thereby losing an income estimated to be £600 annually. He remained in New Haven until 6 July 1779 when, with the withdrawal of Major-General William Tryon’s forces, he sought shelter at New York City. His properties, valued at more than £1,200, were confiscated by the Connecticut authorities.
In the fall of 1782 Botsford was appointed agent for the Lloyd Neck Associated Loyalists; under commission from Sir Guy Carleton he was sent to Nova Scotia with Frederick Hauser and Samuel Cummings to arrange with Lieutenant Governor Andrew Snape Hamond for the settlement of the refugees scheduled to arrive during the ensuing year. Botsford reached Annapolis Royal on 20 Oct. 1782 with the advance group of New York loyalists. The following months were spent with Cummings and Hauser in making an extensive survey of the Bay of Fundy and the environs of the Saint John River (N.B.). Their report, sent to Dr Samuel Seabury and Sampson Salter Blowers*, president and secretary of the Board of Agents, and published in the New York Royal Gazette on 29 March 1783, was enthusiastically received.
That spring Botsford was appointed soliciting agent for the loyalists settled at Conway (Digby, N.S.). In his exertions to obtain provisions and land grants for this group, Botsford ran into disagreement with the provincial authorities, and especially with Governor John Parr* and Charles Morris, the surveyor general. In Conway, as well, a group of dissatisfied loyalists accused him of mismanagement and of giving preferential treatment to the élite.
Upon the formation of the province of New Brunswick in 1784, Botsford moved to Dorchester. He received the appointments of clerk of the peace, judge of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, and registrar of deeds for the newly created county of Westmorland. In the first provincial election, held in November 1785, he was returned as a representative to the House of Assembly; and, during the first session of the house, held at Saint John on 3 Jan. 1786, he was chosen speaker. He subsequently gained re-election in 1792, 1795, 1802, and 1809, and retained his position as speaker of the house until his death.
Amos Botsford took an active interest in politics at both the provincial and the county level. He strenuously opposed the choice of St Anne’s Point (Fredericton) as the site of the capital, and joined with the Saint John interests who fought for its retention in that city. During the turbulent debates over the appropriation of finances that saw the assembly and the executive at loggerheads, the usually moderate Botsford threw his support behind James Glenie, and in the 1795 elections he favoured the anti-government candidates Stair Agnew* and Samuel Jarvis in York County. In Westmorland County, he acted in his capacity as magistrate to oversee the escheat of lands held by delinquent grantees, and fully supported the centralizing activities of the provincial government in its attempt to eradicate the persistent mood of “township” autonomy. But Botsford failed to attain his greatest political aspiration. Despite his solicitations to Edward Goldstone Lutwyche, the colony’s agent in London, and Viscount Castlereagh, the Colonial secretary, he was never awarded the chief justiceship and a seat on the Council.
Botsford’s private career comprised his legal, agricultural, and commercial activities. His extensive law practice extended throughout Westmorland and Cumberland counties, while his interest in agriculture was especially evident following his move from Dorchester to Westcock in 1790. There he acquired a large acreage of marsh and upland and, like his neighbour Charles Dixon, he actively pursued farming, both personally and with hired labour and tenants. He also established a retail business, and in association with Saint John interests, especially with William Pagan, William Hazen, and Jonathan Bliss*, his commercial activities expanded considerably. By 1798 he was advising his son, who had settled in Saint John following his graduation from Yale, that “Law and farming together will answer here – or trade, so that you need have no gloomy prospects.”
Amos Botsford died on 14 Sept. 1812 while on a visit to Saint John. His two daughters, both of whom had married sons of Thomas Millidge, had predeceased him. His only son, William*, had moved from Saint John to Westcock in 1808 to become a partner in his father’s legal and business interests, and succeeded him as member of the House of Assembly for Westmorland County, later being appointed solicitor general, member of the Council, and judge of the Supreme Court.
Mount Allison Univ. Arch. (Sackville, N.B.), Webster Chignecto coll., Botsford family papers. N.B. Museum, Botsford family papers; Milner coll., nos.2, 12–13. PAC, MG 23, D1, ser. 1, 15: 96; D4; Fl, ser.5, 19: 3710, 3717. PANB, RG 2, RS7, 2/1; RS8, Unarranged Executive Council docs., 1784; RG 10, RS107/1/1: 333; RS108, Petition of Amos Botsford, 1788; Petition of Charity French, 1791. PRO, PRO 30/55, no.270 (mfm. at PAC). UNBL, MG H2, 5: 1. [Ezra Stiles], The literary diary of Ezra Stiles, D.D., LL.D., president of Yale College, ed. F. B. Dexter (3v., New York, 1901), 2: 355. “United Empire Loyalists: enquiry into losses and services,” AO Report, 1904: 785. Royal Gazette (New York), 29 March 1783. F. B. Dexter, Biographical sketches of the graduates of Yale College, with annals of the college history (6v., New York and New Haven, Conn., 1885–1912). L. H. Gipson, Jared Ingersoll: a study in American loyalism in relation to British colonial government (New Haven and London, 1920; repr. under title American loyalist: Jared Ingersoll, 1971), 349. F. E. Murray, Memoir of LeBaron Botsford, M.D. (Saint John, N.B., 1892), 1–15. I. W. Wilson, A geography and history of the county of Digby, Nova Scotia (Halifax, 1900; repr. Belleville, Ont., 1975), 46, 48, 52.